Art on the Prairie marks 8th year in Perry

Kiley Wellendorf - Staff
Artist Lori Murga demonstrated her work in the window of Peterson Gallery. Murga was joined by sepctators during the Saturday portion of Art on the Prairie. PHOTO BY KILEY WELLENDORF/THE PERRY CHIEF

Art on the Prairie’s eighth annual, 2-day festival, brought Iowa artists, community members and visitors to the town of Perry on Saturday and Sunday, Nov 11-12. This year, over 100 Iowa artists, including painters, crafters, musicians, poets, writers and more were part of the juried show.

“What our community is doing in the art world is being known all over the United States,” said Jenny Eklund, President of Art on the Prairie. “I can tell you that art is revitalizing Perry.”

Beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, both new and returning visitors bustled around Perry’s downtown district in search of weekend entertainment or inspiration.

“I personally like all of the art because I’m [kind of] a person who paints and I’m interested in it,” said Jean Johnson, Art on the Prairie visitor from Boone.

Sunday visitors, Russ and Michele Omvig of Stratford, wanted to get out of the house for the day.

“I was looking for something for us to do and I wanted to surprise her [Michele],” said Russ Omvig.

More than just weekend entertainment, the juried show is a place for Iowa artists to grow and network. Many artists continue to visit Perry, showcasing their talents by selling product or demonstrating to others.

Artist Theresa Bockenstedt took up camp in the hallway of Perry’s Security Bank Building. Next to her finished pieces, Bockenstedt brought her pottery wheel to demonstrate her work and create while attending the festival.

“There’s more pressure [demonstrating],” detailed ceramics artist, Bockenstedt said. “People are trying to see if you really know how to do it and if you’re really one to make it.”

Musician, C.W. Smith played his acoustic guitar at the Hotel Pattee. Smith has been part of the art festival four times.

“I get to see different people that I don’t get to see at my regular gigs,” Smith gushed. “You don’t see retirees, you don’t get to see kids at a bar gig, [and] you don’t get to see a lot of these people that work during the day – [they] aren’t hanging out in a coffee shop or a bar late at night.”

First-time artist and painter, Kerrie Wright was also stationed in the Hotel Pattee. She showcased pieces of her art while working on other projects in the meantime.

“I love all of the variety,” Wright commented. “It’s the variety of artists and the variety of people walking around and listening to all of their stories and how everybody perceives the art differently.”

The locations of the art make the festival unique, artists explain.

“I like the fact that it’s a whole community idea where people literally look forward to coming and going from building to building,” said Claudia Koch, co-creator of Koch Woodworking. “It’s just not the art; it’s the buildings downtown type-of-concept and to me that’s really neat.”

This is the fourth visit for wood crafters, Claudia and Ernest Koch. Their table was stationed inside Peterson Designs.

“It helps bring the community together and it helps bring people to the community,” said Ernest Koch.

Artists were stationed throughout eight buildings inside Perry’s downtown district: the Perry Public Library, Security Bank Building, the Hotel Pattee, Town/Craft Building, Carnegie Library, Peterson Designs, Citizens Bank Gallery and La Poste.

“Not only do we only present Iowa artists, but what sets us apart from other venues is that we’re blessed with the buildings,” Eklund said.

Eklund said Perry’s buildings were a popular topic among attendees.

“One of the many good compliments and one of the best we hear is how we take care of our old buildings and bring them back to life, and they’re such a wonderful backdrop for art,” Eklund said.

Although Art on the Prairie is limited to Iowa artists, local businesses had the opportunity to open their doors to the crowds.

“The Nudgers came to us and they want[ed] to be part of Art on the Prairie,” Eklund explained. “With Mary Rose’s connections, we were able to do these pop-up businesses and they had a wonderful weekend of sales.”

Local coffee shop, Perry Perk was also housed in La Poste during the two-day event.

Eklund said Art on the Prairie’s goal is to drive citizens to businesses in Perry and explore what the community has to offer.

“The restaurants – every time at the end of the second day, the restaurants are coming to us and thanking us,” Eklund said. “They’re all just opening their arms to us and thanking us and it just makes your heart sing that we are truly economically helping our community.”

While it’s difficult to determine an exact headcount, Eklund was able to determine other forms of crowd estimates: La Poste gave away 4 batches of fudge and 3,682 chocolate chip cookies.

“I think Saturday we had a great showing of out of town guests, and Sunday I saw more community [members] and people that I happen to know or recognize – people were just in awe,” Eklund said.